Save on seeds at the supermarket

Everyone knows you can buy seeds in those cute little seed packets in the garden center. But you can also get great garden seeds from packages of food in the grocery store. From beans to quinoa, the potential savings are substantial. 

Just one example is quinoa. A 2 gram package of rainbow quinoa was recently sold at a health food store for $1.89. A 1 lb bag of white quinoa at the same store in the grocery isle was $3.89. If you buy the big bag for dinner, there is plenty in a 1 lb container for eating AND planting your entire yard along with a few neighbors'. Looking at the math, there are 453.59237 grams per pound. Quinoa seeds in a garden packet work out to 95¢/gram. Purchased as a bag of food, they are less than a penny/gram. Savings were similar for other items.

Not all food items with make good garden plants. Rice and barley are processed after harvest and you are not buying viable grains from supermarket bags. You can easily test viability of seeds by putting some on a plate between wet paper towels. In a recent test, within a few hours there were the beginnings of quinoa sprouts. By the next morning almost all had sprouted. Beans take longer, but at two days nearly all the anasazi beans tested showed sprouts. Once you know you are dealing with viable seeds, you can plant them in Jiffy Pots or directly place them in the soil.

Also tested were organic whole peas, mung beans and amaranth with good results. Older, clearance items may be a problem so beware. A clearance bag of organic peas only showed a 30% germination rate. The rest were cooked to see how they would work as a food item and the flavor was stale. They were quickly tossed.

Testing beans and other seed items for germination rate is not only smart for gardening, it is a good way to see if the food you are getting is fresh. If your beans and seed don't sprout, they have probably been sitting on the store shelf for a long time and you may want to buy a different brand or shop at a different store.

Organic-style markets like Whole Foods, Trader Joe's and Vitamin Cottage are well stocked with organic beans, seeds and grains. Available in bulk or prepackaged containers, they sell quickly enough to ensure freshness. Regardless of the source, just make sure the items are whole and not cracked, split or otherwise processed.

Others have tried growing their groceries and have had great results. Here are a few reports from members of

"I grew wheat and amaranth last year from seed from the grocery store. We also got started on our millet by planting the seeds from the sprays sold for bird food. I planted lentils and they grew well, but the seedpods only hold one or two lentils. Not really worth growing, but it was a fun project, to see if we could and what they looked like. I figure it still was good for the soil, since they are a legume....

I planted popcorn that I got at the healthfood store. It was organic popcorn and it grew very well. We now have several jars of our own popcorn, from a handful that I planted." - FarmerDenise

"And we have terrific Yukon Gold potatoes that we hold over year after year for our own seed potatoes. They were originally a 10 lb bag of store bought. I know, lots of people say that's risky and you should only plant certified seed potatoes. But it's worked out fine for us. We get a great crop every year with many very large potatoes, and they store really well." - Kim_NC

"I've done various beans and dried peas with success. Organic wheat and oats sprout well. I grow them into grass for my cats. (I buy bulk whole grains to make my own flour so I get it by the 50-pound sack, plenty to grow) I always grow potatoes and sweet potatoes from store bought ones. Also garlic, I buy whole cloves of garlic in the produce aisle and break them up and plant them." - Ariel301